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MOVE Texas in this week’s Community Spotlight Series!

SACIV is thrilled to feature MOVE Texas in this week’s Community Spotlight Series!

MOVE Texas is a nonpartisan, nonprofit, grassroots organization that works to ensure youth voices are heard and considered in the policy-making process by building power in underrepresented youth communities through civic engagement, leadership development, and issue advocacy. They operate under the belief that engaging young voters is crucial to the success and growth of the community and its constituents and that by making civic engagement fun and interesting for young people, they can positively and permanently improve the community. Additionally, they provide resources for eligible citizens to register to vote, enable young people to participate in grassroots activism and organizing, and lobby elected officials for the representation that young people deserve.

In 2013, MOVE was founded by a small group of dedicated students at The University of Texas at San Antonio to increase participation in local elections and since then has gone statewide to become one of the most effective voter registration and engagement groups in the state. MOVE Texas stands for Mobilize. Organize. Vote. Empower. It currently operates in San Antonio, Laredo, Seguin, San Marcos, Austin, Houston, and Dallas.

For over four years, MOVE Texas representatives have met with almost a dozen of our IVLP delegations, composed of NGO professionals and leaders in youth and civil society sectors, hailing from almost every continent around the world. They always enjoyed the opportunity to discuss MOVE’s efforts towards civic mobilization among youth through participating in roundtable and panel discussions with the organization’s diverse staff and volunteers, including students at chapters of several local universities.

A recent delegation, who visited San Antonio to examine the impact of volunteerism in US communities and how volunteers are inspired to foster a culture of service, civic involvement, and responsibility, met with MOVE Texas representatives this past January. They shared their experience implementing various aspects of their work, focusing on strategies for mobilizing youth for civic action. The conversation also led to a discussion on how different countries address the shared challenges and obstacles surrounding civic engagement. Visitors and staff alike were keen to share their experiences encouraging youth leadership and participation around issues of social change.

Development Manager, John Wingert, describes his experience meeting with IVLP delegations and his role as a valuable community partner: “Meeting with international visitors is always such a positive and enriching experience. The memory that sticks out most to me right now is when MOVE had the opportunity to speak with some European visitors who were utterly shocked by the statistics of democratic participation in the United States. It was a reminder to us that some of the things that we accept as normal can actually be significantly improved, including civic infrastructure. Our conversations with international visitors always help to provide invaluable perspective on the work we are doing.”

Mr. Wingert also shared how MOVE Texas rapidly adapted to the challenges created by the pandemic and has continued their important work: “Our first step was, of course, to pull our teams from the field and begin working remotely. We have been continuing to find new and innovative ways of having our field teams engage with young Texans and ensure they are registered to vote, informed about upcoming elections, and prepared to cast their ballot. Our staff members and volunteers have been phonebanking tens of thousands of young people to get out the count for the census; we have been working with elected officials to let them know about the electoral reforms necessary for people to vote in a pandemic; and MOVE Texas is also preparing to launch an ambitious voter registration by mail program which will mail voter registration forms to 300,000 young Texans for them to return by mail to their county, and we will also be following up with every one of those young people over the phone and through text messages to ensure they are equipped to register to vote. Although we would be happier resuming in person work, we are very proud of our adaptations to the remote and digital space.”

International exchange programs, like IVLP, foster unique opportunities for meaningful dialogue on critical topics and encourage citizen diplomacy. Now more than ever, finding creative ways to connect, share ideas, and educate ourselves on the issues impacting both the local and the global communities is of vital importance. Therefore, we would like to express our sincere thanks to MOVE Texas, not only for the work they are doing in our local community, but for creating meaningful connections with our international visitors.

If you would like to learn more about MOVE Texas, please visit their website.

Fun Fact: MOVE Texas Development Manager, John Wingert, quoted above, is a familiar face to the SACIV community. He interned with SACIV during the summer of 2016 and then returned to join our team in 2018, where he served as Program Coordinator until taking a position with MOVE Texas is 2019. We are grateful for his role of supporting SACIV in various capacities over the years!

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